by Paula Fenn
Abstract—In this article, Paula Fenn explores the term ‘Restorative Justice’ from within the criminal courts system and re-purposes this traditional terminology by extending and applying it to the transformational process of victims/clients meeting current life and past life perpetrators during regression therapy sessions. These meetings are conceptualised as ‘Transpersonal Restorative Justice’. Via the descriptive use of theory and in-depth case study analysis she not only seeks to generate an understanding of both traditional and transpersonal approaches to restorative justice, but also to evidence and enhance awareness about the incredible healing benefits which can be achieved when victims meet perpetrators. In the sharing of a wide range of illuminating stories of transformation we bear witness to the potential benefits for both parties.
Whilst approaches to working with clients using regression therapy have evolved over the years, the critical concepts and techniques advocated by its pioneers to affect change and bring healing benefits to clients remain at its roots. Fiore and Hickman brought awareness to the necessity of accessing memories and connecting with and releasing the emotional charges therein to bring about symptom remission. In addition, Woolger encouraged a focus on the awareness and working through of the complexes within which the symptoms were embedded (Lucas, 1992). Whilst the work of contemporary regression therapy is rich in the traditional approaches of its forebearers, it has, according to TenDam (2014), evolved beyond an integration and processing of past life memories and patterns and towards “A new kind of psychotherapy” (p.15). Such a psychotherapeutic approach is held within a transpersonal philosophy and encompasses a broad and rich mix of transformational therapeutic techniques applicable to both current life and past life issues.
Whether working with current life or past life issues, and via an alchemical therapeutic mix of techniques and approaches uniquely pertinent to each client, the journey and outcomes of regression therapy can be transformational. Traditional therapeutic techniques include facilitating the client to return to the past, discovering the stories and their contextual layers and patterns, reframing, working with the mind, body and emotions, cathartic release, and reclaiming and returning disavowed and introjected energies and parts.
This paper seeks to enhance awareness around the transformative approach, often utilised in regression therapy, of facilitating “inner plane” (McHugh, 2010, p.155) meetings and communication between clients/victims and perpetrators. It also aims to evolve conceptual thinking by framing these encounters as ‘Transpersonal Restorative Justice’.
In the realms of the criminal courts system and victim support agencies, restorative justice is a process involving facilitated face to face meetings between victims and perpetrators. The UK based national charity ‘Why me’ organises and delivers restorative justice schemes and state that this approach is part of a victim recovery process which allows people affected by crime to meet and communicate with the person responsible, to ask questions, talk about the incident and explain to offenders the impacts of their actions. Research data indicates that 85% of victims who engage with the restorative justice process are satisfied with the experience (What is restorative justice – Why me?, 2021).
Case Vignette – Restorative Justice: Rob
Rob’s son was violently attacked and robbed. His son was offered the opportunity to meet his perpetrators but he declined. However, Rob’s father wanted to meet them and offers his story below:
After the attack, my son was clearly shaken and upset. I on the other hand was left with anger and no direction in which to channel it. I attended court but the process allowed no voice for the victim. Taking part in the restorative justice meeting was a chance to open up a conversation, in which both my son’s attacker and I could both listen and equally be heard… he did listen to what I had to say about his senseless choice of actions on the evening he attacked my son… I was also able to understand the young person’s background… I did find myself having a certain amount of empathy and consideration for his circumstances which I was not expecting… At the end of the meeting I looked him in the eye, shook his hand and wished him all the best in his future. I hoped that with the benefit of him taking part in restorative justice from an offender’s perspective, he would think carefully about his future choices… When I left the meeting, it felt like a weight had been lifted from me that I didn’t even realise I was carrying. I felt like my anger from the time of the attack had subsided… After this meeting all the unwanted negativity I had held was finally and permanently gone. (Robs story – Why me?, 2021)
Benefits of Restorative Justice for Victims
What is evidenced here in Rob’s case vignette are the range of common benefits associated with meeting perpetrators which have been determined in a number of research studies (Servaes & Birtsch, 2008). As examples: the victim is able to channel trapped emotions outwards and gain cathartic release, he is able to express himself and be listened to by the perpetrator, some of the unresolved meaning behind the victimisation is capable of being understood, empathy is shared and the victim feels unburdened and is now able to move on untethered to the perpetrator.
Transpersonal Restorative Justice: Meeting Perpetrators in Regression Therapy
Whilst in traditional forms of restorative justice the victims and perpetrators meet in a literal, face to face context, within its transpersonal counterpart the meetings occur in a metaphysical sense. As examples, the victims may encounter their perpetrators by returning to a current life or past life event in their awareness, they may call their perpetrators forward into a ‘safe space’ or they may engage with their perpetrators through the Gestalt ‘empty chair’ technique. See Kellogg (2015) for an insightful use of Gestalt-oriented ‘Transformational Chairwork’ within a traditional psychotherapeutic context whereby the non-physical meetings do not involve altered states. However, such victim/perpetrator meetings which occur during the process of regression therapy will include the client being at an appropriate depth of trance/altered state.
Anna had spent a number of weeks in hospital (six years prior to the regression therapy session) as a consequence of a severe infection. Her intent for the session was to seek a degree of emotional resolution regarding the pain and trauma she suffered associated with the event. Anna began shaking and physically bridged into the regression. She felt very cold and the shaking continued until the physical catharsis was completed. She then began to cry and her body twitched slightly as she recounted the experiences of laying in the hospital bed feeling very cold, alone and mistreated by the nurses. Through the tears she tried to brush something off her hand and wrist and told me about the nurses sticking needles in her time and again even though she was black and blue. She experienced the nurses as very brutal, rough and un-sympathetic to her pain or her emotional needs.
Further emotional release was encouraged and she cried a lot as she became flooded with sadness. After this cathartic release anger became the dominant emotion, which then intensified into rage directed at the nurses.
The nurses were brought before Anna and she began to shout at them with strength, “It hurts and I want you to stop!”, “You should have been taking care of me but you made me feel worse!”, “You had no sympathy or compassion for me!” Anna then accessed further emotional pain and the tears of sadness returned. Upon enquiry residual energy remained and Anna agreed that further resources were needed to deal with this remaining energy. She went to the animal kingdom and brought down snake energy. The expressions towards the nurses then had a different slant: “You think you are something special and you treat me like shit!”, “You are a total bitch… coward… bully…!” After this outpouring of rage Anna experienced a sense of calmness and completion. Her body was still and light. As she touched her chest and throat she noticed how good it felt and had a deep sense of physical and emotional clarity.
What occurred here was a transformation of trapped energy as a consequence of returning to the traumatic event, working with the body, meeting perpetrators and cathartic release. Whilst respite occurred for Anna as a consequence of her chastisement of the nurses, one could argue that there were no great insights or benefits achieved for or about the nurses; which in turn might have brought enhanced benefits for Anna.
No shared dialogue occurred between Anna and the nurses, the nurses had no voice, made no gestures indicative of reflection or self-awareness, or offered any explanations or apologies for their behaviours. Essentially Anna objectified and ‘used’ the nurses for her own gain; albeit a beneficial healing gain. The psychotherapeutic terminology for this from within the field of Object Relations Theory is “object usage” (Celani, 2010).
Case Vignette – Current Life Regression: David
David was a long term traditional psychotherapy client. He suffered from a social anxiety disorder which was beginning to negatively impede upon his career due to his tendencies towards avoidance of group events. For David (during his first regression therapy session), the bridge into the current life material was the energised phrase, “I need to get out of here!” He accessed memories and recounted stories about being bullied at university and work, but returning to the formative event he was a ten-year-old boy sitting on the floor in his family home playing a board game with his older brother.
His brother was taking great pleasure that he was winning the game and David became aware of the intensity around his brothers need to beat him at all costs. His brother cheered and chastised David brutally for being such a failure, making David feel diminished and frustrated, and creating such a heightened sense of physical and emotional anxiety that the child David left the room – the birth of “I need to get out of here!”. David reflected that he actually let his brother win because his brother needed the win so badly. Cognitively acknowledging that this awareness was of significance, he related it to his current issues of anxiety, avoidance and his prevalent sense of urgency to withdraw in his work life. It also made sense to him in terms of letting the bully’s win at work, which of course was hampering his career.
With this new awareness he now shifted into anger. His jaw tightened and he clenched his fists. Intensification of the anger was encouraged and he began panting with rage. “What did body want to do?”, I asked, “Beat the shit out of my brother”, said David. To facilitate the bodywork I brought a seat cushion up towards David’s body and hands, and as his eyes were closed I drew one of his fists towards the cushion so he knew it was there and felt its location. Matching the client’s energy I prepared David for the hit on a count of three, “One, drawing all that anger into fists, that’s right, two, that’s it getting prepared to hit him, and three hit him, hit him!”.
In a curious turn of events David did not hit the cushion and said in a very ethereal voice, “I am not going to hit you Paula, I do not want to hurt you”. I told him that I was safe, and fully protected and prepared to facilitate his physical expressions of anger, but David reiterated that in no way was he going to do this activity. I told him that was okay and I put the cushion back down by my side on the floor.
I quickly wanted to assist him to get back into his anger and out of his analytical mind so I said that on a count of three he would be able to get back into his anger and express it in whatever way felt right to him. On three he clenched his jaw and fists, and tightened his facial expressions and I intuited that he was hitting his brother in his mind. I encouraged this and validated it by saying things like, “That’s right, good, all the way, all the way!” When his features loosened and he unclenched his fists I knew that the release was over.
David told me that he had beat his brother up and that he was laying on the floor in front of him. David felt bad about this and said that he had hit him too much. In order that David did not stay within this sense of remorse I asked him to draw his awareness back to his body and to notice how different it felt now.
He expressed having no butterflies in his stomach (a longstanding physical link to his anxiety), and that the blockage in his solar plexus (trapped anger) and the sickness in his mouth and throat had gone (the blockage associated with a lack of expression). David acknowledged this positive change with a nod and a smile.
I then advised David that he and his brother were going to have a chat. David was unsure about this and was somewhat avoidant. I ‘held him’ in the challenge that this time he was not going to walk away but was going to confront the issues.
I had the two boys sit opposite one another across the board game. David asked his brother why he needed to win so badly and his brother just sneered at him. “Why do you need to destroy me?” David shouted. But again, the brother was indignant and just stared at him disapprovingly. I decided to try something else. I told David that he would begin to see a surprising thing happen, his brother would begin to get smaller and smaller in front of him, whilst David would get bigger and bigger. When this occurred a wide smile appeared upon David’s face. “How does that feel now?”, I asked. David’s response was that it felt good and he laughed a little. I asked David what qualities within himself had allowed him to get bigger and he listed a number of personal attributes such as intelligence, driven-ness, kindness, compassion and not being an aggressive, arrogant bully in the same way which his brother and his father are.
David was encouraged to express this directly to his brother. With pride he said, “I am different from you!” Further to this, naming out loud that he was not a bully, not aggressive and could never be like him because he would never want to hurt people the way in which his brother does (note the association here with the ethereal “I am not going to hit you Paula, I do not want to hurt you”). His brother sat and listened to him without comment but absent of any negative gestures. David observed his anxiety meter. It was “In the black, down at the bottom near a one”. “What made the difference?” I asked. “The realisation that whilst I could not change my brother’s attitudes and personality, I could change how I viewed myself and my own power in such situations”.
To complete the session David was returned to the other bullying events at university and work and David was very surprised to discover that the events had changed. He witnessed himself shaking his head as if the bullying comments and jibes were irrelevant to him. Additionally, although he had formerly left the venues after being bullied, now he stayed and enjoyed himself with friends.
Overview of Anna and David Case Vignettes
Again, what we see in David’s case vignette is that he utilised his perpetrator to gain cathartic release. He did gain a heightened sense of awareness around his current presenting problems, but nevertheless he objectified his brother just as he had been objectified. Turning him into an object to receive the abuse which David had previously been dealt throughout his childhood at the hands of his older brother. His brother received it without question as if violence was merely a commodity with a fair exchange. Also, despite attempting to get his brother to engage with him verbally, and as was evidenced in Anna’s case, there was no shared communication and no sense of any lessons learned for the perpetrators.
Meaning, that there were no indications that any introspective awareness was gained by the perpetrators in terms of the psychological or emotional mechanics behind why they had done what they had done.
Both Anna and David went on to have successful past life regressions, which one could argue were able to occur as a consequence of the facilitated release of the dense energy of rage via meeting their perpetrators; and other associated healing. For Anna, the past life session was a further developmental stage on her journey of self-discovery, purpose and meaning. For David, the processing work associated with a past life where he was ostracised by his tribal community but fought back against their social stigmatisation was deeply transformative and life changing.
A Deeper Analysis of Restorative Justice
Braithwaite (1989) is heralded as a formative and crucial voice in the field of restorative justice. His in-depth analysis of forms of social justice within various cultures indicates that reciprocated violence, chastisement and therefore stigmatisation of perpetrators does not work. As in, it brings no developmental insight or lasting change within the perpetrator population; albeit that such acts of reciprocated emotional and energetic discharge can bring certain benefits to victims. Through years of research, what Braithwaite discovered was that an evolved sense of conscience and developmental change was possible within the perpetrator population when perpetrators empathically emotionally experienced the effects of their acts. The victims, who were formerly external ‘objects’ (“Someone I did something to”), now become internal ‘subjects’ (“Someone I hurt or harmed as a consequence of my actions”) i.e. the perpetrator identifies with and internalises the victims’ experiences. Such empathic experiences within the perpetrator about their victims brings with it a deep sense of insight.
Additionally, there is an ability for the perpetrator to internalise the shame which was previously either not experienced at all, or was repressed, disassociated, and/or left for the victim to carry as their own physical, psychological, emotional and/or energetic burden associated with the act of perpetration. Braithwaite termed this integrative process of bringing parts of the self together in association with the victim “Reintegrative shaming” (p.80). Encouraging perpetrators to take responsibility for their actions by carrying the burden of what they have done and empathically identifying with the harm they have caused their victims increases a sense of social cohesion and a transformed interdependency between victims and perpetrators which also leads to a reduced rate of re-offending.
Jungian analyst Michael Conforti (2021) states that if we do not allow ourselves to bear witness to our moral transgressions they will “Live on as motive forces within the psyche”. In other words, that which is repressed and disavowed from psychological and emotional acknowledgement and internal world acceptance, is alive within us and able to be re-enacted and continually projected outwards onto others via acts of aggression, cruelty or extreme violence.
Not only that, our own transgressions, our own acts of perpetration, become emotional and psychological weights which we carry associated with our victims as well as being carried by our victims. In fact, psychiatrists Moskowitz (2004) and Spitzer (2001) make the critical point that not only victims carry trauma (which can be re-enacted) as a consequence of acts of perpetration inflicted upon them, but also perpetrators carry trauma as a consequence of their own acts of perpetration against victims (a doubling up of the potential for re-enactment given perpetrators own histories as wounded victims).
We must come face to face with our shadows, the daimons within us, in order to lift our consciousness beyond the wounds of the ego and the often-distorted exterior moral rules of ‘otherness’, of them-not-me, which we adopt or are imposed upon us which categorise others as ‘safe’ or legitimate objects to receive harm or acts of abuse. Victims essentially becoming personally or socially permitted containers of our woundedness and individual and/or collective shadows. The intergenerational family system and ‘work culture’ rule book which allowed bullying in David’s case, or systemic medical ‘necessity’ in Anna’s case. But also consider here the social justifications for slavery, witch hunts and other forms of persecution and exploitation throughout the ages which were essentially socially sanctioned abuse and acts of perpetration.
The deeper basis of meeting perpetrators, restorative justice, and its transpersonal counterpart is that the victim/client, who is essentially in a symbiotic relationship with the perpetrator as a consequence of the harmful and transgressive acts committed, holds a mirror to the perpetrator. Such a mirror asks perpetrators and perpetrator groups to go inside and look at their indiscretions, their heinous acts, and see themselves in the pool of pain they created. But it also beckons perpetrators to look at their own disavowed wounds and their own objectification which ultimately led to the projections and acts of perpetration.
A Deeper Analysis of Transpersonal Restorative Justice in Regression Therapy
Past Life Regression Therapy, the Death Point and Meeting Perpetrators
When clients access a past life in regression therapy it is often important that they address and work through the past life death point trauma. As part of the trauma processing it is common that they discover that there is trapped soul energy in their deceased body. Upon investigation of the cause of this residue they may discover that it is linked to trapped thoughts or emotions, bodily injuries, physical pain or the manner in which their bodies were destroyed or disposed of.
Post attending to such matters (using bodywork and cathartic release for example) and through further assessment, the residues are often linked to unfinished business with perpetrators. The victims carry an interlinked confusion around how the perpetrator could have been so cruel and a deep-seated emotional pain associated with what was done to them. It appears as if the only way to resolve the imprinted trauma still remaining after therapeutically processing various other dimensions of the past life scenario is by attending to those wounds with the person who inflicted them.
There is something shared between current and past life victims and perpetrators, the smell of the rapist’s aftershave or the smoke from the pyre, the sound of the abductor’s car engine or the barks of the chastising dogs, the rough concrete of the alleyway beneath the body or the brutally placed noose around the neck. The shame – an externalisation of internal contents projected and imprinted onto victims by their perpetrators, and internalised and introjected by the victims to be carried forth into future lives. A synergistic fusion of sensate and soul between both parties.
Case Vignette – Past Life Regression: Monica
Monica presented with endometriosis (a painful condition involving inflammation and burning sensations associated with the build-up of scar tissue within the womb and pelvic regions) and a depressive sense of homelessness of unknown origin. As Monica bridged into the past life through the emotions related to homelessness, she was a happy and calm child in a field of golden wheat and located herself in Maine, New England. Later in the session it was discovered that she had been transported there and that her parents in this scenario were not her real parents. There were complexities in this family system which included sibling rivalry and envy towards the client. After all she was not their ‘real’ sister. Monica made dolls as a pastime but the jealous older sister linked these with witchcraft and reported her to the prevailing authorities. She was taken away by men in uniform and the substitute parents did not care or intervene to protect her.
She was imprisoned for many weeks, during which she was raped and made pregnant by a uniformed perpetrator. She was then taken to the centre of the town and tied by the throat to a stake where everyone could see her and she remained there for days.
Stripped naked her evident pregnancy was now on display and this sealed her doom as the locals could not fathom how she could be pregnant and determined a further link with witchcraft. Now carrying “The devil’s child” her womb was scored and stabbed with knives. Taking her to the death point she had then been set on fire and was burned alive at the stake.
As Monica progressed through the session she was making direct cognitive links between the past life context and narrative and her current life and presenting problems. This ability to recontextualise was very beneficial for her in association with her sense of homelessness and endometriosis. Monica required a great deal of bodywork and emotional catharsis before being able to engage with her perpetrators. Of note were her interactions with the villagers who had participated in the scoring and stabbing of her pregnant belly and the male figure who had raped her who was also the one who lit the fire.
The perpetrators were not concessionary in any way, they held firm to the imposed belief system that she was a witch. They justified their actions on the basis that they were frightened of her and her devilish powers, but they also had an even stronger fear around what might happen to them from authority figures above them in the social hierarchy if they did not kill her.
They used a socially imposed and self-introjected prevailing narrative, alongside their own fears of being harmed, to excuse their actions. When meeting Monica, the perpetrators gained no restorative insight as they were blocked by their fears and belief systems. They remained in-service to themselves and their own needs.
Analysis of Monica’s Case
In a powerful use of language, psychoanalyst Grand (2002) talks about the chilling degree of harm that is caused where such self-serving murderousness is granted permission within the self and/or within social groups. As a victim of her perpetrators’ self-protectiveness and self-serving collusion with those in authority, Monica became a mere object to be used for other’s gains. She is acquired and discarded for a cause. Traded by her older sibling for her own selfish aims, used and objectified by the rapist for his own pleasures, dehumanised by indirect murderer bystanders who did not intervene, and murdered by those who stabbed and scored her womb and set her on fire.
In these layers of objectification and dehumanisation Monica has been rendered an “It” not a “Thou” in Buberian terms (Buber, 1970). The subjective selfhood of Monica becomes a mere ‘thing’. By rendering ‘thingness’ to their objectified victims, the perpetrator is able to deny the pain they are causing and the evil they are committing. In association with this case vignette we can also acknowledge the ideologies and projected religious beliefs which facilitated the murder of thousands of ‘witches’ – not the murder of thousands of innocent young women. Another version of this is of course the Nazi’s distortions that “Jews are not humans” which enabled them to dispose of millions without shame, remorse or an integrated awareness of their own evil.
When the infliction of pain and murder cannot be seen for what it is – abject evil and cruelty against another human being – the perpetrator avoids the glimmers of shame and guilt which makes him human. Victims can be discarded, and corpses can be buried out of the light of awareness and into the secret shadows of the mind and the soul. Such secrets lurk, running through the veins of generations, awaiting to be re-animated and reborn in future lives.
A Mutuality of Transformation Between Victim and Perpetrator
As we move through this paper what is sought to be elucidated and evidenced is that both the victim and perpetrator can undergo a mutually restorative process of transformation.
As the perpetrator comes to understand what they did and why, they discover their own stories, their own wounds, and need for healing. A desire can become enacted to express that which was not possible for them to express to their victims as a consequence of being trapped in their shadows, defensive projections and recruitment in of “object usage” (see Fenn, 2020). They can take accountability for their actions and via an awakening of empathy they can acknowledge and be receptive to the emotional effects of their acts of perpetration. They too obtain cathartic release.
Therefore there can be a parallel process of transformation and healing between the victim and the perpetrator.
Case Vignette – Restorative Justice: Kathryn
The Family Secret was a documentary directed by Anna Hall and produced by Candour Productions in 2019 (Hall, 2019). It relates to a historical situation of sustained sexual abuse which had been kept as a secret for decades by the victim and the perpetrator. Seven-year-old Kathryn was abused by her then ten-year-old brother Robert for a period of three years. Unable to repress this any longer Kathryn tells her family and confronts her brother. What follows is some of the pertinent content from the facilitated restorative justice meeting.
Kathryn: “Only the victim and the perpetrator know what really happened. I need him to face the truth… I need to face him and look him in the eye.” [Note the synergy between the victim and her perpetrator]
Facilitator: “Restorative justice is a process about bringing victims and offenders together to have that conversation, to ask questions that only the perpetrator is able to answer.” [Again, an awareness of the victim/perpetrator fusion]
Robert sits with his head down; he cannot raise it or look his victim in the eyes. He is already heavy with shame due to the secret being revealed and the physical presence of his sister and his mother in the meeting room. [Note how the presence of the victim has a significant effect on the perpetrator]. Robert explicitly describes what he did and why. He sexually abused her from 7 years old for his own sexual satisfaction. Kathryn makes it clear it was rape and Robert agrees.
[In that first moment of shared acceptance it is the first time they meet each other’s gaze. As a result of Robert taking on this burden which his sister has carried for years Kathryn becomes more animated. She now uses wide gestures of her hands as she talks; her body is un-numbing].
From this bodily place she tells her brother there was no enjoyment in it EVER. Robert agrees. [He retrieves her introjected shame – his projected and disavowed shame]. Robert says, “I agree” and repeats “I understand completely.” [Kathryn is now able to access her emotional wounds]. “I was seven, seven years old, nobody deserves that, let alone your sister.” [She names and adds moral transgression onto moral transgression].
Kathryn: “What made you think it was alright?” [The questions begin].
Robert: He says he only did if for “The release, the high. Logic never factored into it. It was all selfish desires… Saying she was a means to an end sounds so callous, but it was.” [Prior objectification is present, he acknowledges he took what he wanted for his own gain]. “The only thing I can do about it now is to be better than I was.” [A statement of self-acceptance and the possibility of transformational gains for Robert].
Kathryn: “All I wanted was to be happy, but you took that, you took all of that. I have so much hatred towards you. You make me so angry… you were meant to be a protector, you took everything away from me. It’s important that you take responsibility, that you are to blame for all of this.” [Kathryn seeks Robert’s acceptance to carry the long-term baggage she has held, alongside this there is emotional catharsis through energised expressions. Robert is emotionally struck and becomes tearful]
Robert: “I don’t blame anybody else, it is all my fault.” He is crying and heavy with emotional pain. “I just hope that one day she can find some peace, that’s all I want.” [He has accessed emotional empathy for his victim and Kathryn feels ‘met’. She nods and smiles, something inside her has lit up, it is a moment of significant healing due to his empathy and his further retrieval of blame and the burden of responsibility].
The perpetrator then apologises, “I’m sorry, I really am. I know I can’t change the things that happened in the past but hopefully from here on we can start moving forward… “I am a better person than you know and for the rest of my days I am going to be a better person than you remember.”
Robert has confronted and integrated his shadow, taken responsibility for his actions, emotionally ‘met’ his victim and apologised. The process of restorative justice has been transformative and will allow him to reform his own identity. Kathryn feels complete. The matter is resolved and now she can move on with her own life unburdened and free. She leaves the room with a final request that Robert listens to the song she leaves playing entitled ‘Warrior’. She has reclaimed her spirit, and perhaps Robert his.
Case Vignette – Transpersonal Restorative Justice: Rebecca
Rebecca’s presenting problem was a prevailing sense of sadness which she could not associate with anything in her life, accompanied by a lack of purpose. Rebecca bridged into a past life via a blockage in her throat and embodied the past life character of a mentally retarded/disabled boy who had difficulty communicating with others because of his lack of intellectual capacity and ability to form connected speech. He sat in an old classroom of Victorian styling full of noisy children. Due to the boy’s deficiency the ‘able bodied’ children would relentlessly bully and mock him. Rebecca shed tears of compassion for this small, disabled and brutalised child which she embodied.
We moved forward into his teenage years; living at home with his loving parents and no longer going to school. It felt to Rebecca that his parents were the only ones who truly understood him. Rebecca expressed the difficulties he experienced with communication. It seemed as if he struggled to find words as his “brain did not work properly”. Not only was he shut off from his peers because of his differences but struggled to connect with others because he struggled to mentally form words and share them with others. Despite this, in his young adulthood he felt loved and was happy. He was a simple man living a simple life on a farm and enjoyed driving the tractor to plow the fields; something he was good at.
The death point, at twenty-two years old, was pre-empted by a farm accident with the blades of a tractor. His father found him lying in the field and rushed him back to the farm cottage. As he approached his death he lay in his bed, in his home, with his parents by his bedside. He did not fear his death and died gently and contentedly without fear or any apparent regret.
When I asked Rebecca to observe the deceased body from the side of the bed she was able to do this and confirm that his heartbeat was gone. When the body was checked for remaining soul energy it was detected that residues were present around the heart area. When I asked what this was I was told “It feels like sadness” and Rebecca put her hand on her heart area in the present moment.
There was an awareness that there was ‘unfinished business’ from this past life which needed to be resolved in order to heal this heart-wound and release the soul energy from the past life characters body.
The past life character initially wanted to meet his parents, embrace them and thank them for all the love they had shown him. After they hugged he wanted to be able to fully communicate with them, using the proper words and language which was inaccessible to him during his life due to his retardation. I encouraged him to speak from his heart using whatever words he wanted because “This was not a problem at all, he could do whatever he wanted in these realms.” As he spoke, his words of gratitude and love towards his parents were clear and resonant. His voice was confident and rich. His parents felt blessed to receive these words and it was a loving, transformative experience for everyone involved.
From the place of this new resolve and confidence, he then wanted to meet the able-bodied children from his class at school who had bullied him relentlessly for years. With his ‘new voice’ and capacity for thought and language (without retardation) he strongly and authoritatively dismissed their behaviours, told them how dreadful they had been and how bad this had made him feel.
He also expressed confusion towards them, in that one day they would be his friends, and the next his enemies. The children, especially the boys, went onto their knees and cried. Though fragile and child-like in their demeanour, they understood the pain associated with their actions and sought forgiveness. From a place of offering forgiveness the past life character also fell to his knees and they all hugged one another and cried together. Tears of relief, release and freedom from some sort of bondage rolled down the faces of the perpetrators, and in a parallel release Rebecca wept openly with her perpetrators. Wiping the tears from her face as she lay on the couch in the consulting room she said, “I am finished here now. My body is at peace”. After a final check no soul energy remained in the body of the past life character and Rebeccas heart area felt full of a golden light.
Forgiveness of another through the process of inner plane communication is very powerful. Such depth of compassion that results is not something that can be done cognitively… just saying or thinking “I forgive you” does not do the healing… True forgiveness is actually an experience (usually of compassion) that occurs within the heart of the client. It is an experience that can come about through a transmutation or recontextualization of the anger, blame, resentment or judgement field… or by leaving the position or positionality of “me” and delving into the state of the “other” – the [formerly] unforgiven one (McHugh, 2010, p.155).
Case Vignette – Transpersonal Restorative Justice: Joshua
I had worked with Joshua for an extended period of traditional psychotherapy prior to facilitating a past life regression therapy session with him. The intention for the session was to deepen his cognitive and emotional understandings around the critical issues of abandonment and behavioural and emotional shut-down in relationships. Issues we had tackled over dozens of sessions of psychotherapy. After a relaxation induction Joshua became receptive to an image of a wooden ship with tall sails. He realised he was on the ship and was enduring a long and difficult journey. This journey was sustained by his dreams of a better future and a new beginning. His heart hurt though because of the guilt and sadness of leaving his mother behind.
At that point he gained a huge understanding of his current life abandonment issues – which were formed as a consequence of his current life mother’s behaviours which resulted in him being put into foster care for the vast part of his childhood – combined with the intersections associated with his actions towards his mother in the past life he was now accessing. A critical factor being that his past life mother and his current life mother were the same person! Therefore there was a reciprocity of abandonement shared between them.
In the next scene Joshua was in a marketplace in a strange, adventurous country. I encouraged him to notice any smells and sights and he breathed in spices and noticed little monkeys stealing from the market stalls. He was very happy and spoke to himself with empowerment about how he was really going to make something of himself here and start a new life. He had an incredulous look on his face as he embodied his past life character and observed the clothes he was wearing: a long coat with buttons, shoes with shiny buckles and a triangular shaped hat with braid around it upon his head. What also contributed to the incredulity about his physical demeanour was that in the past life, as is the case in his current life, he was a person of colour. He could not understand how he could present in the attire of a wealthy man hundreds of years ago and yet be black. In his current life he had also experienced financial and cultural constraints as a consequence of his colour.
Moving forward through the past life Joshua described himself as a landowner. He communicated an open scene from which he could view his wooden house set within all the land which he owned. Joshua began to notice a sense of loneliness and a deep desire to share his life with someone else. He spent many years searching and he was very uncomfortable with his sense of isolation.
Moving forward his face lit up with a sense of astonishment and he told me he had a beautiful wife and three children. He described a simple and loving family life – working off the land and spending lots of time with his family.
In the next most significant event Joshua expressed that there was trouble. He was receiving threats, being told that he shouldn’t be there, had no rights to the land. At this point Joshua realised that he had been a black slave who had been afforded his freedom before he travelled oversees. However, the people who were threatening him did not agree with his lifestyle or his opportunities. Their belief was, “Once a slave, always a slave” and they were forcing him to abandon his house and his land – essentially seeking to put him back into servitude.
In a terrible and horrific turn of events, Joshua returned from a trip into town to buy some seeds, to discover that his house had been burned down and that his wife and family were missing. He was in a state of heightened panic and anxiety. He screamed out from a very deep and painful place within himself and wept intensely and cathartically as he realised that they had all been murdered.
Moving forward a number of years he found himself living a worthless life and doing menial tasks to survive. He had nothing to live for anymore and was shut down and dis-connected from everyone around him.
Approaching the death point Joshua stood on a cliffside. He jumped and committed suicide believing dying would be easier than living a life of deep grief and suffering. Observing his deceased body he acknowledged that there was trapped soul energy associated with the perpetrators who had burned down his house and killed his family.
The group of perpetrators were brought forward and Joshua pleaded with them for answers. He also shared his emotional pain with them and told them that he had lost everything because of their actions, including his own life. The perpetrators fully engaged with Joshua and told him that they were jealous of his success and his happiness and because of this they wanted to take it away from him. They also told him of the shame, as white men, they experienced as a consequence of Joshua being a successful black man and how that linked with the social expectations placed upon them within that particular society. They also gave Joshua empathic access to their own harsh lives and their own pain.
Joshua now had a higher understanding of the reasons behind what they had done and why. Acknowledging their pain within himself Joshua said he felt sorry for them and their suffering.
Spontaneously Joshua said, “I forgive you” and in that moment something wonderful happened. Lights rose up from the ground and entered the central core of the bodies of everyone present in the scene – Joshua as the victim and all of the perpetrators. This light progressed upwards through the centre of their bodies and continued all the way up to the sky. Then the light encircled all of them and their bodies dissolved into energy en-masse and became interconnected. Throughout this mystical experience Joshua’s facial expression was illuminating and his body pulsated with light. He spoke of “Being inside the healing energy of the universe”.
Assisting Joshua to attend to the significant shut down point of his suicide we returned to the cliff he had jumped from to his death. As soon as he arrived there he told me that it had been healed and he rose up into the air, and became glowing like pure energy and became part of everything. Telling me that he was energy!
Deepening the Analysis of the Transformational Effects of Traditional Restorative Justice and Transpersonal Restorative Justice
What is evidenced in the case vignettes of Rebecca and Joshua is a mutuality of transformation between victim and perpetrator. Both parties are released and set free from the bondage of the acts and receipt of perpetration. This is also witnessed between Robert and Kathryn within the more traditional literal face-to-face model of restorative justice where we can also evidence the capacity within the abuser and abused to move into a future less burdened by the events of the past. Kathryn identifies with a ‘Warrior’ Identity and Robert says, “For the rest of my days I am going to be a better person”. So other than the emotional release, and the processing and transmutation of shame, there is a transition into a new form of self- identification. No longer the abused – a “warrior” replaced this. No longer the abuser – a “better person” is birthed.
The links between victims and perpetrators are highly complex and there appears to be an intersection between both parties which can only be repaired within this highly charged intersected pairing. It is as if the keys for reparation of the mind, body, emotions, the sense of one’s identity – as well as the deep imprints upon the soul of such painful infringements – are held by the abuser for their victim, and the victim for their perpetrator. A multi- faceted exchange must occur between them to effect reparation and transformation. In the best of cases where both parties are willing and open and not resistant to a shared “I-thou” meeting of souls, the victim is the perpetrators mirroring object and the perpetrator is theirs.
Look at me from a soul level and you will see the reflection of your actions (inside yourself and inside me), and as I look at you soul to soul I see both my own wounds and your wounds.
Both victim and perpetrator must receive the compassion and empathy which was formerly absent, and the paradoxical void of emotionally charged neglect must be attended to and shared. Additionally, the trauma imprint which created the painful and burdensome symbiotic relationship between them must be re-forged in a human link of mutual acceptance and understanding. The victim is no longer an ‘it’ or a ‘thing’ and is re-humanised. As is the perpetrator. Now in receipt of his own humanity.
To make a contribution to the understanding of man’s role in history, and his control over his destiny, we must extend our empathic observation not only to the victims but also to the persecutors, not only to the martyrs but also to the torturers. [We] must discover the human, the all-too-human…in the good and in the evil (H. Kohut, 1969-70, p.119, cited in Fromm, 2022, p.93)
Case Vignette – Transpersonal Restorative Justice: Mark
In this brief section of case material relating to 74-year-old Mark, he is meeting with the group of past life perpetrators who made their dogs attack him and kill him. His body was ripped to pieces and his death was very painful. Having initially chastised the men for their cruelty and expressing anger towards them, Mark is now checking in with their responses.
I asked Mark how the perpetrators were reacting and he said they all stood with their heads hung in shame. This did not generate any compassion in Mark towards them. I asked Mark to imagine that he could step inside the energy field of one of the perpetrators and when he did this I asked him to look around inside this body and see if there was any love. After a few moments of silence Mark began to cry. He said in a surprised, staggered and hushed tone, “There-is-no-love-inside-this man”.
“Look around some more and tell me why?” I asked. Mark responded, “He (the perpetrator) had never experienced love and so knew nothing of it”. A dawning awareness crept over Mark’s face. I asked, “I wonder what might happen if you sent a spark of love into this man’s heart?” As Mark sent a light-filled spark of love directly into the centre of the man’s chest the man’s body lit up and was surrounded by light.
In parallel the same thing occurred with all members of the group of perpetrators and Mark participated in this experience and felt the light within and extending beyond his own body.
I asked Mark how he felt towards them now and the response was “pity”. He explained that these men were actually just like the dogs. They had not been born to be bad, it was not in their nature, they had become bad through a lack of love and the teachings of their parents, and their parents had become separated from their true nature because of their parents, and so on… I asked Mark if he could forgive them and he said he could and acted on this. I then asked him if he felt able to send forgiveness to their fathers too and allow it to flow all the way back to those who needed it. He felt happy about having the opportunity to do this and as he sent forgiveness to the group of perpetrators he became aware of a ripple of light passing through them and moving backwards in time.
As he spoke to me delightedly and animatedly about what was happening I asked him if he felt able to send forgiveness to the souls and/or higher selves of his current life father and brothers. [There was a trauma imprint associated with his father and brothers]. Engaging with this activity, something seemed to ‘click’ and he expressed that “It all made sense now”. He said to them “I forgive you”, and what had happened when he forgave the perpetrators similarly occurred – they became full of light. His family and all of the perpetrators then disappeared from view as if their energy had dissolved. Mark said that sending them forgiveness had set them all free. Mark then wanted to set all of the dogs free and he waved his hands at them and shoo-ed them away saying, “Off you go now. You are free”. Mark then said that this was the most incredible experience of his life!
Overview of Joshua and Mark Case Vignettes
The unconscious symmetry between the perpetrator and the victim, forged by what Conforti terms “moral indiscretions” or “moral transgressions” comes into a new kind of wholeness where consciousness meets consciousness and becomes greater than the sum of its parts – where a higher energy beyond both parties also participates. This is clearly evidenced in the above cases of Joshua and Mark. Additionally, there is a transmutation of, and a transcendence beyond, the duality axis of victim/perpetrator. In this unifying ‘mystical meeting’, or co-mingling of consciousness, the forces present combine and aggregate creating an emergent, transcendent (beyond the self) phenomena which might be termed a numinous experience (Otto, 1923).
Measurability of Outcomes Relating to Transpersonal Restorative Justice and Traditional Restorative Justice
Time and again such profound experiences of learning, healing and divine ‘meeting’ occur during regression therapy sessions when clients encounter their current life or past life perpetrators.
There is anecdotal evidence from within my own case files to indicate that after such sessions there are profound changes in the clients’ personal lives including symptom remission, and behavioural, relational and lifestyle changes. On occasion, and many years later, clients will often recount the powerful experiences they had – associated with meeting perpetrators – as if they occurred yesterday, and will often name them as life altering.
But from a research perspective how can the developmental gains associated with the process of transpersonal restorative justice be measured? My belief is that they cannot, in that there is a lack of exclusivity given that such victim/perpetrator meetings are undertaken within a session repleat with a variety of other regression therapy processes and techniques. Therefore making any singular gains associated with this one particular component immeasurable.
To extend this, what of the gains achieved by the current life or past life perpetrators? Again, we are in the realms of impossibility in terms of exclusive measurability. However, at times we may obtain some unusual anecdotal evidence. For example, clients may report a variety of developments relating to changes in current life relational dynamics with known perpetrators, or even past life perpetrators whom the client intuited were ‘known’ as figures in their current lives. These changes may include estranged family members knocking on the client’s door seeking to re-form their damaged relationship within days of the session, the client receiving telephone calls or texts after many years of silence and so on. Certainly not ‘proof’ as required by science but certainly something is occurring in terms of the transformation of an energetic relational entanglement.
However, where we do have solid evidence of measurable changes associated with perpetrators, is in the wide body of research attributed to Traditional Restorative Justice approaches. As an example, the University of Sheffield were commissioned by the government to evaluate three restorative justice schemes between 2001 and 2008 and the results of the research were resoundingly successful.
Key findings included: a statistically significantly lower number of reconvictions over the two years after the offence compared to the control group, a decrease in the severity and frequency of subsequent re-offending, and an overall reduction of 14% in the rate of reoffending (Ministry of Justice, 2008, p.33). Whilst, in a New Zealand restorative justice study with young offenders, Morris and Maxwell (2001) found evidence of reduced re-offending.
Additionally, in a large South African study, where most acts of perpetration involved domestic violence, the results evidenced that participation in restorative justice programmes brought lasting and meaningful change. In all cases the women mentioned positive changes in behaviour and conduct towards them (from their former abusers), with no further assaults or verbal abuse, and all the women who were still with their partners said that relationships and communication had improved following the programme (Dissel, 2000).
Readers of this paper (who are either regression therapists or have an informed familiarity with life between life components and the use of reframing techniques) may also be aware that often when the client meets perpetrators during the process of regression therapy there is a spiritual awareness that the act of perpetration was instigated against them in order to bring some benefit in terms of their soul development. The client/victim may have even elected to go through the painful experiences associated with acts of perpetration and crafted these experiences in the LBL phase during formation of their future life plans (Newton, 2011).
Additionally, often the perpetrator is found to be a member of the client’s soul group, and at great expense to themselves, agreed and contracted to take on the role of perpetrator in order that an important lesson (for the victim and often themselves as the perpetrator) was achieved. We may also see switches between victim/perpetrator roles between soul group members in order to bring these gains. As noted by Hazel Newton, “Souls play all the parts to explore all aspects of human life in order to grow and evolve” (Cited in Tomlinson, 2011, p.69).
Although these components were not fully explored in this paper, due to a focus on other aspects of victim/perpetrator dynamics, the cognitive awareness gained associated with choosing, planning and contracting to be in receipt of acts of victimisation can also be transformational.
For various moral reasons, and with a view towards political correctness, there are certain difficulties associated with these perspectives (of ‘choosing’) outside the context of a Transpersonal Restorative Justice framework.
To conclude, there are a wide range of traditional and contemporary techniques and approaches within the process of regression therapy which are uniquely utilised associated with the individual needs of the client to effect beneficial change. By exploring traditional and transpersonal forms of restorative justice, and via the descriptive use of theory and in-depth case study analysis, what the author hopes to have evidenced in this paper is the transformational healing potential associated with clients (as current life and/or past life victims) meeting perpetrators.
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